In the latest episode of his "Powerful Witness Preparation" podcast series, Remember, You Are On The Record, litigation attorney Dan Small continues his in-depth 10-part series on the rules for witness preparation. He explains that the most important person in the room is the one that doesn’t say anything, the person taking the notes. He warns that once the words leave the mouth of a witness they cannot be taken back. Those words will live on forever. However, there are several things a witness can do to leave behind a better record.
1. Slow Down – The witness must answer each question as if they were dictating the first and only draft of a very important document because that is exactly what they are doing. They must consider each word carefully and talk in complete sentences. A witness should also make it clear whether they are paraphrasing or quoting directly because they do not want to put words in someone’s mouth unless they are 100 percent sure they are correct. They cannot dictate this important document quickly, casually or off the cuff. They need to be fully prepared and then approach each question with pace, care and precision.
2. Be Aware of the Power of Language – When every word is transcribed and under oath, language takes on an extraordinary importance. A witness must be aware of and consider each word of a question before carefully choosing the words to answer it. There are five basic language issues that witnesses must confront; confusing, jargon, legalese, relative and loaded. It is important to help your client understand what kind of language they use and how to make sure it is clear when they are answering each question on the stand.
He concludes by reminding that it’s not just what you say, it is how you say it. Remember that every single word that the witness says is going to be committed to the important document they are dictating. They must slow down and be aware of how they are answering each part of a question.
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